The recent lifting of the ban on the importation of textile materials has been condemned by stakeholders in the industry. The Nigerian textile workers have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse the action. The workers, under the aegis of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), said the decision to lift the ban would further create unemployment and massive job losses.
The General Secretary of the union Issa Aremu said the decision to lift the ban on textile materials remained was wrong because it did not follow due process.
Aremu regretted that the decision to lift the ban remained counterproductive to government’s efforts in promoting the growth of local industry, saying the latest decision would sound a death knell for the textile sector.
Aremu stated that the decision to relax the ban on the importation of textile into the country could not be in the interest of the masses, adding that the first test of Buhari ‘Change Initiative’ would be to reverse the decision. “Lifting the ban is illegal as it did not follow due process. Before the ban came into force, there were lots of discussions with all the stakeholders. Recall that the ban was put in place so that African prints can have comparative advantage because we have the capacity to produce locally as well as huge market,” he said.
He lamented that the textile sector, which had been the leading employer of labour, is now a shadow of its old self with over 20 companies shut down.
The Labour leader said that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, after deliberations with the stakeholders decided to put the ban in place, adding that the policy was equally retained by late President Musa Yar’adua and “to some level”, Goodluck Jonathan.
“The same process it took to put the ban in place is the same process we expect the government to take into consideration to lift the ban. It cannot be done casually. All the stakeholders must be called for deliberation,” he stated.
Aremu said the Federal Government should give the sector the kind of support given to local cement manufacturers, which has made them to thrive through the total ban on importation of cement. “We are not afraid of competition, if it is done in good faith. If importers of textile materials pay the right duties and come in with quality products, our local industry can compete favourably with them.
“But a situation that they come in with inferior products through the back doors and saturate the market, thereby making it impossible for the local industry to break even is not good for our economy,” he warned
While calling for better funding of the Nigeria Customs Service in order to battle smugglers, whom he said have more sophisticated weapons, the textile workers’ scribe said seized goods should be burnt as they often find their way back into the local markets.
He also charged the state governments to look inward to grow the economy through agriculture and industrialization as it was the case in the 60s and 70s, rather than going cap in hands begging for bail out from the federal government.
The Director-General, National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Emmanuel Cobham, has also condemned the lifting of the ban.
Cobham said that the revocation of the ban would expose the Nigerian textile industry to serious danger. The move, he said, would be counter-productive to government’s efforts to revive the moribund textiles sector of the economy.
“We are mortgaging our economy; the economy will not grow under such circumstances. We now depend on China and India for things that can be locally produced. We need to protect our industries because there are various stages of development – when we crawl, fall, stand, walk, and within this period, we scrutinise ourselves for changes. The stage where we run is when the international community accepts that our products meet international standards and embrace them,” Cobham said.
By Pita Ochai